Latin America is embracing digital transformation in both the public and private sectors as the way to stay competitive in the global economic market. But digital transformation is impossible without making cybersecurity a priority.

There are now nearly 20 billion attacks per day across the globe, according to Talos, Cisco’s threat intelligence group. And disturbing trends highlighted in Cisco’s 2018 Annual Cybersecurity Report call for a newly trained workforce that understands how to defend against cyber criminals in a rapidly changing security landscape.

Today, technology is a part of everything we do and the Internet of Things (IoT) is making life safer and easier for Latin American citizens. Cybersecurity, though, remains a top concern.

From Panama City to Rio de Janeiro, cities all over Latin America are using IoT to improve the lives of its citizens. Sensors in Mexico now warn of gas leaks before they become dangerous. Smart technology is everywhere, enabling city organizations to proactively alert people about traffic conditions, inclement weather, and other hazards.

But as more and more sensors and devices are connected to the internet, cyber criminals have more and more opportunities to attack. IoT botnets have the ability to compromise and leverage thousands of these devices to wreak havoc. According to Cisco’s 2018 Annual Cybersecurity Report, 42% of all organizations experienced this type of attack in 2017.

IoT is just one area that the Cybersecurity Report recommends paying special attention to when designing security policies and training security personnel. The cloud is also growing in popularity, which comes with both risks and rewards. The reward is better protection through data security, but the risk is that it’s harder to defend.

The term ‘Malware’ now makes the news on a regular basis and breaches are causing real economic damage to organizations. According to the 2018 Cybersecurity Report, more than half (53%) of all attacks in 2017 resulted in financial damages of more than $500,000, including, but not limited to, lost revenue, customers, opportunities, and out-of-pocket costs.

Latin America is particularly vulnerable to cyber attacks and many countries in our region simply lack the capacity to respond to major cyber incidents. There is a path forward though, and it is multi-faceted. Collaboration, technology, and training can all help Latin America become better prepared.

We must work together as a region. Collaborating with international organizations, individual Latin American country governments, and private companies will make us all stronger.

Cisco is starting key security conversations with our customers in Latin America – conversations about ransomware defense, cognitive threat analytics, threat intelligence analytics, insider threat visibility, rapid threat containers, and cloud threat protection. These conversations are the beginning of becoming better prepared as a region.

The more eyes patrolling an organization’s network, the better chance of catching an attacker before damage has been done. If we can teach a computer to do some of the watching, even better. Technologies such as automation and machine learning (artificial intelligence) offer new ways to identify and respond to both known and emerging threats. This is especially helpful in Latin America, as the lack of a security trained workforce is a huge issue in our region.

Which brings us to the final aspect of Latin America’s road to cyber preparedness – training. We need more people who have the cybersecurity knowledge and skills to stay one step ahead of the attackers. The Cisco Networking Academy is partnering with 1,550 academies and 3,800 instructors to train Latin Americans in cybersecurity skills. Some 450,000 students were enrolled in the Networking Academy in Latin America in the past twelve months, and 1.6 million have already completed the coursework.

By providing free and flexible curricula, as well as access to a global network of training and support resources, the Networking Academy is not only helping our region to be better prepared, it is ensuring that thousands of Latin Americans will be able to find work. However, the cybersecurity skills shortage extends beyond Latin America, to the entire globe. And this training will enable Latin Americans to be active participants in the global, digital workforce.

Digital transformation is here to stay. And cyber attacks are a growing threat that we cannot ignore. By working together, and staying abreast of cybersecurity trends, Latin America can effectively defend our digital economy and grow stronger in the process.